People often start a new endeavour to realise a vivid dream. This is good by itself; the dream coupled with strong self-motivation would take them far when the going gets tough (which it usually does).

However, there’s another side to dreams that’s quite dreadful, particularly for someone starting something new1 and with little experience.

Unrealistic Expectations

It’s no secret; when learning your work won’t be original, beautiful or fulfilling. Experience shows us that anyone’s first picture is not far from a scribble. Almost everyone I know learnt cycling after a crash.

This failure might kill motivation; many new comers to a field exit it as new comers.

When you’ve a vivid dream, you may not want to sell yourself short; you want to realize the dream as-is, nothing short!

Your imagination on how you’d perform and what you really do would be worlds apart. Setting a high goal and not giving enough time is a good recipe for quitters.

Having a high bar is not just unproductive but also unrealistic. It’s plain wrong to expect it from you or anyone.

Gall’s Law

Applicable universally but masquerading as a technical law:

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.

Notice that you could replace “complex system” with “artist” and get something useful:

A skilled artist who excels has invariably evolved from being a beginner.

Mind you, this isn’t just to learn fine arts. I’ve seen this law to be far reaching. After all it states that things have to be built incrementally; you can’t directly jump to 100 from 0.

Applications

Here are a few applications from countless ones:

Science

Many inventions weren’t invented directly. It’s usually built upon years of research and experiments preceding it e.g. radio, car, television, …. This list is endless.

Technology

Though the use of computers and human communication has evolved to the point of video calls and conferences, a couple of decades back none of this existed. However, people were warmed up to this state slowly; not in a day. They’d to be evolved to understand today’s technology. Continuum: land-line telephones, digital organisers, pagers, keypad phone, touch phone, smart phones!

Finance

You might have seen some governments introducing a new clause of tax very marginally. This is the clever way of doing it. Since the amount is marginal folks mighn’t notice it but when slowly incremented year over year, eventually it’d become a sizeable amount. They literally go from 0 to 100 unnoticed by warming up the tax payer.

Ignored Gall’s Law recently?

Though super simple, I’ve seen Gall’s Law ignored by many (including myself) in a busy life. It’s so simple we tend to overlook it; we think we can skip the intermediate steps and directly jump to 100 from 0.

Where did you take a shortcut recently and got bitten by it?

Examples

  1. College kids resigning their first jobs as they don’t like work/salary/role/etc.
    • Wanting to work for a better company, role or salary isn’t a problem
    • Giving up an existing job to do it may be a problem
    • Working in the current role is going to give you real-world experience
    • Quitting and trying to get a job? A bird in hand is worth two in bush.
    • Learning at and off work and applying for another company is more realistic
  2. Budding movie directors demanding absolute freedom, wanting to direct the next Academy Award Winner
    • Having this goal is okay but having demands as new comer is probably not
    • Sure, someone might have gotten an award for their debut movie but probably without expecting it!
    • The idea is to accept any offer instead of waiting (perpetually) or (worse) quitting!
    • Take upon offers coming your way and improve gradually
    • One day your work would be excellent then you’d have realistic terms you could demand
  3. Budding artists refusing to perform in cheap restaurants as they want to only perform on big stages
  4. Over ambitious companies biting more than they can chew
    • Startups shining brightly for a while and then burning out without a steady growth

You get the idea! Secure the basics and then build from there.

Fail, Fall and Sell Yourself Short

Be courageous; sell yourself short and work happily. Keep working and you’d realise the goal you envision. Being afraid to work in lower, menial positions and wanting quick success is the wrong frame of mind; it’s a disservice you do to yourself being with that mind frame. Ideal thinking won’t help; pragmatic thinking will show you the ropes and you’ll eventually hit the spot!

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. – George Santayana, The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress

Growth is almost always a slow, incremental process. It can’t be fast-tracked. Winning players are often seen in soiled clothes!

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  1. Of course, even if you aren’t starting something new, day dreams have other side-effects: more you dream the more you lose your grip on reality. ↩︎